LOUISE BICHAN – Out Of My Own Light (Swanbister Records SWAN001CD)

Out Of My Own LightIf you’re the sort of person who reads the small print on CD covers, you’ll be familiar with the name of Louise Bichan. She is widely known as a photographer, particularly of Scottish artists but has been playing the fiddle for even longer. Out Of My Own Light is subtitled The Margaret S. Tait Project and is, I believe, her first solo album. Margaret Tait was Louise’s grandmother and both came from the Orkneys but Margaret’s uncle had emigrated to Canada and settled there. After the second world war Margaret was, in her own words, “restless and unhappy” and journeyed to Canada to meet her family.

Out Of My Own Light tells Margaret’s story in music and it’s a complicated one involving a recording for CBC radio in 1950 and the choice of two suitors. The record closes with a recently rediscovered but sadly scratchy and incomplete tape of that broadcast. The rest of the record is composed by Louise and performed alongside some of Scotland’s finest musicians: Mike Vass, Signy Jakobsdottir, Duncan Lyall, Su-a Lee and Jennifer Austin, whose piano makes a striking contribution to the album.

Although rooted in the tradition, Out Of My Own Light is something more. You might call it alt-folk or nu-folk but I prefer to think of it as modern classical with tracks titled for people and incidents in Margaret’s life. The man she chose to marry, Sydney Bichan, gets two pieces, ‘Sidney The Pilot’ and ‘Flying Farmer’ and ‘Swanbister’, the name of Louise’s label was also the home of Sydney’s family. Louise isn’t clear about this but I suspect that ‘Margaret’s Walk To The Pier’ and the cover photograph are of Swanbister.

This isn’t an album you’re going to get at first hearing but you’ll find expanded sleeve notes at http://www.outofmyownlight.com and in Louise’s blog.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s webside: www.louisebichan.co.uk

A behind-the-scenes look at Out Of My Own Light:

Rachel Sermanni – new album

Rachel Sermanni Tied To The Moon

Folk-Noir balladeer Rachel Sermanni returns with the release of her new studio album, Tied To The Moon, via Middle Of Nowhere Recordings in July. Tied To The Moon is her second full studio album following 2012’s debut, Under Mountains.

Tied To The Moon was conceived in March 2014, in an apartment above a pottery studio deep in the sticks of Nova Scotia. The apartment belonged to two-time Juno Award winner Old Man Luedecke and offered Rachel four days of complete stillness with no means to communicate with the outside world. Bookended by her routine of going for a morning run in the surrounding ten acre forest and silent afternoons of coffee and pistachios, Rachel would sit, in total solitude; writing; reading; playing music. In the space of these four days she unintentionally wrote six songs – four that would later become the core of Tied To The Moon: ‘Tractor’, ‘This Love’, ‘Banks Are Broken’ and ‘Old Lady’s Lament’.

In total, Tied To The Moon features ten new songs that channel spirits of all ages and archetypes, weaving images of childhood and womanhood, of instinct and inhibition. An indefinable mix of songs, Sermanni’s creations have grown, twisted and turned since those four days in the Novia Scotia solitude to reach a fully-formed stage reminiscent of classics such as PJ Harvey, Tom Waits and Joni Mitchell. To achieve this, she enlisted the help of Colin Macleod (recording and production), Jennifer Austin (piano, organ and backing vocals), Gordon Skene (bass and cello) and Louis Linklater (drums) and tracked all takes, live, in Colin’s living room in the Scottish Highlands.

Rachel, age 23, has toured extensively across the world since 2011, making her a young veteran on the gig circuit. In the past four years she has toured across her native Scotland and the UK numerous times, whilst appearing in Canada, USA, Australia, Iceland and across Europe, as well as sharing the stage with names including John Grant, The Staves, Stornoway, Rumer, Mumford and Sons, Ron Sexsmith and Elvis Costello. Rachel Sermanni has an impressive musical and professional resume, a swath of EP’s recorded all over the world, and now two full length studio albums in addition to last year’s live album that was recorded at Dawson City Music Festival. Sermanni’s newest release though, Tied To The Moon, sees Rachel digging deeper than ever and offering a darker and more rhythmic flavour of poetry and music.

‘Tractor’ – the first single from ‘Tied To The Moon’: